Thursday, April 9, 2015

Holy great quotes, Batman!: A review of 'Batman vs. Robin'

I had so much fun "reviewing " the Diggles' wedding episode of "Arrow" with just quotes I thought I'd follow it up with a variation, this time a Dynamic Duo-centric version.

Here are the greatest quotes from the first 7 1/2 minutes of the upcoming animated feature "Batman vs. Robin" Blu-ray/DVD. Following these quotes is my actual review:

"There are no lines I refuse to cross," Talon tells Robin when he tries
to convince the Boy Wonder to leave Batman. Interesting "small Batman
world" sidenote: Jeremy Sisto, who voices Talon, was the voice of the Dark Kight
in "Justice League: New Frontier." 
• "I'd like to hear that call. 'Hello? Police? My son stole the Batmobile.'" — Robin

• "An alternate response might be 'Good job, Robin.' But I guess I expect too much." — Robin to Batman about following up on a lead

• "Remember, Robin: Justice. …" "… not vengeance."

• I can take care of this myself." — Robin to Batman, who just showed up
"An alternate response might be 'Thanks, Batman.' But I guess I expect too much." — Batman

• "You want to know helplessness?" — Robin as he wields a Batarang

• "Don't doubt your instincts." — Talon to Robin (Cool "small Batman world" sidenote: If Talon sounds familiar, it's because actor Jeremy Sisto ("Law and Order") voiced Batman in the 2008 animated film "Justice League: New Frontier"!) 

• "After all these months together, all I've taught you, you revert to (being) the assassin your grandfather wanted you to be." — Batman
"I could have done it easily. But I didn't out of respect to you." — Robin

Those quotes give you taste of the tension between Batman and his biological son, Damian Wayne, the newest Robin, in the opening minutes. Much later in the movie, the Court of Owls' main assassin, Talon, makes the situation worse by offering Robin a way of righting the wrongs in Gotham City with "no lines, no limits, no rules."

Will the Boy Wonder turn his back on Batman? Or will his father's philosophy of merciful crimefighting win out? That's what the rest of "Batman vs. Robin" addresses.

Damian Wayne struggles with his father's way of raising him
and the way Batman treats him as the newest Robin.
(Photo courtesy of Nerdreactor)
While it's aptly titled, the one-hour, 29-minute adventure isn't just a fist-fight; "Batman vs. Robin" is more about a philosophical disgreement among the Dynamic Duo or even the Batman's universe take on nature vs. nurture. But what else would you expect when Bruce Wayne has to raise the 10-year-old grandson of his most challenging member of Batman's Rogues Gallery of Villains, Ra's al Ghul? (It's best to enjoy "Batman vs. Robin" by first watching "Son of Batman;" the two animated movies flow together seamlessly.)

Given Damian being raised in the heart with the League of Assassins and combine that with a rebellion streak that would make many teenagers blush, it's no wonder Wayne activates a deadly, high-tech security system just to keep his son from leaving the front lawn of Wayne Manor. Now if Alfred just hadn't been so trustworthy later. …

Trust is a significant issue between Wayne and his son. As Damian points out, "that works both ways."

By the end of "Batman vs. Robin," the new Boy Wonder is struggling with who he is and what his life's direction should be. This is a mild spoiler, but Damain resents that his father is keeping him a secret from the public and this leads to a widening gap. Talon widens it by making an unbridled way of getting rid of criminals very appealing. End spoiler

Nightwing spars with Robin in the Batcave.
(Photo courtesy of Nerdreactor)
I'll give writer J.M. DeMatteis credit; there actually are a few scenes when I come close to liking Damian. (As I've made perfectly clear years ago, I despise the arrogant little s**t who has done little to make himself more likeable.) When Wayne makes arrangements for Alfred to show the 1948 "Oliver Twist" film so he and his son bond over buttered popcorn comes to mind immediately.

DeMatteis provides a few chuckles, most especially when Batman informs Damian as he's leaving the Batcave that "I got you a sitter" — the one and only Dick Grayson, the original Robin. Damian and Grayson (as Nightwing) then spar in the Batcave when Nightwing reminds him that every time Batman and Ra's al Ghul fought, "Batman always kicked Ra's al Ghul's ass — just like I'm kicking yours."

Being a lifelong, dedicated Dick Grayson fan, I'm pleased to see Nightwing included in "Batman vs. Robin." He plays a much bigger part than he did in "Son of Batman," in which he had an extended cameo. Just as he did during his years as Robin, Grayson keeps it real with Wayne is always there to help is adoptive father in battle.

The fight sequences are top notch — some of the best ones from the latest batch of New 52-inspired animated movies. (And so far, the Batman ones have been far better than the "Justice League" installments.) While there's a bit of blood in "Batman vs. Robin," it's not as gratutous as say, "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox."

Veteran comic-book readers will easily figure out "Batman vs. Robin" is a mix of Grant Morrison's storyline of the same name in the BATMAN & ROBIN series (when Grayson took over as Batman) and Scott Snyder's "Court of Owls" storyline in the first year of the New 52 BATMAN title. (I did a very short review of it in the first home/online version of Cary's Comics Craze.) 

As with many of the first animated adaptations of DC Comics storylines, this "Batman vs. Robin" features many of the same major sequences taken directly from the comics, but there are a few twists. Without spoiling the ending, the climax in the Batcave parallels what happens in Snyder's story, but the "resolution" with Robin and Talon was a nice surprise. Grade: A-

Needless to say, the conclusion leaves the door opening to yet one more Damian Wayne/Robin-focused animated movie to round out the "Son of Batman" trilogy — just as I predicted when I did my sneak peek in mid-February.

For more of CCC's coverage of "Batman vs. Robin," check out this op-ed about my favorite bonus material from the Blu-ray, all of which not surprisingly focuses on the Dynamic Duo.

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